3.1 Preamble

Northern Ontario is home to more than 800,000 people. This population is highly diverse. People of many cultures and backgrounds have also migrated, and continue to migrate, to the region. Northern Ontario includes nearly half of Ontario's Aboriginal population, including both on- and off-reserve residents. It also includes approximately 140,000 of Ontario's Francophone people.

People are Northern Ontario's most important resource. They will be the driving force behind the new northern economy. To realize their full potential, northerners will require increased access to health care, education, training, and skills development. In this Plan, particular attention is paid to supporting under-represented groups, such as youth, displaced workers, Francophones, Aboriginal peoples, newcomers, and persons with disabilities. It will also be important to build understanding across cultures so that the contributions of all northerners are supported and valued.

Through collaboration among key partners, including the Province, municipalities, postsecondary institutions, school boards, and others, this Plan will help build a skilled and innovative Northern Ontario workforce by increasing the accessibility and relevancy of education and training. Educational opportunities will be closely tied to the existing and emerging priority economic sectors that have the greatest potential to bring new jobs to the region, as well as the trades and professions that are the mainstay of community life. This Plan also includes broader literacy and skills development measures to build an innovative, entrepreneurial and adaptive labour force that is ready for future employment opportunities.

This Plan's policies to support a healthy population include increasing access to health care services for Northern Ontario residents, increasing the number of health professionals practicing in Northern Ontario, and encouraging communities to support and promote healthy living.

Collectively, the health and education policies of this Plan will open up new opportunities for all northerners to contribute to their communities and to the future of Northern Ontario. They will create a Northern Ontario workforce that is ready and able to take advantage of new and emerging economic opportunities.

3.2 Educational attainment

3.2.1 The Province will work with postsecondary institutions and school boards to expand opportunities for northerners to participate in the secondary and postsecondary educational systems, and to pursue continuing education and training, which could include:

  1. innovative approaches and technologies to deliver on-site training in rural communities
  2. increasing opportunities for studying college and university programs online
  3. making it easier for students to move between institutions to continue their studies, receive transfer credits and graduate in a timely fashion
  4. co-operative education opportunities for secondary and postsecondary students with Northern Ontario businesses, with an emphasis on building skills and expertise in the existing and emerging priority economic sectors
  5. student financial assistance programs that assist eligible students from rural and remote areas with the transportation costs of attending postsecondary institutions
  6. opportunities for accessing French-language postsecondary education and training
  7. approaches to increase educational attainment of Aboriginal peoples in accordance with Policies 7.4.3 and 7.4.4.

3.2.2 The Province will work with Northern Ontario's postsecondary institutions to provide a diverse complement of courses and programs in line with their evolving missions and mandates, and overall government direction, with a focus on programs that support the development of skills that are critical to the existing and emerging priority economic sectors or that have been identified as labour market needs as part of labour market planning in Policy 2.5.1.

3.2.3 The Province will work with Northern Ontario's postsecondary institutions to attract students from across Canada and around the world with the goal of raising Ontario's profile and competitiveness as a world-class destination for postsecondary education.

3.2.4 The Province will work with school boards and other partners to support an educational system (kindergarten to grade 12) that continues to accommodate the unique needs and circumstances of all Northern Ontario communities.

3.2.5 The Province will engage with representatives of Northern Ontario industries, professional associations and school boards when developing school curriculum and educational programming (kindergarten to grade 12).

3.2.6 Areas of study will be integrated into the Province's school curriculum (kindergarten to grade 12) and educational programming that are particularly relevant to building the future of Northern Ontario, and that are engaging to Northern Ontario youth, including:

  1. the use of new media and technology
  2. job skills and career opportunities in the existing and emerging priority economic sectors
  3. the history, language and culture of Northern Ontario's Francophone communities and Aboriginal peoples.

3.3 A skilled and innovative population

3.3.1 The Province will collaborate with training and education partners to increase the ability of northern residents to participate in the workforce through programs and initiatives that:

  1. enhance job skills, particularly in the existing and emerging priority economic sectors
  2. improve literacy and basic job readiness skills development
  3. support career planning, training and transitioning into the workforce
  4. facilitate trades and apprenticeship training
  5. improve digital literacy to facilitate the transition of workers into new employment opportunities.

3.3.2 The Province will work with Northern Ontario communities to attract new and needed skills and ideas through provincial and other programs that attract skilled newcomers and international students to Northern Ontario's communities and postsecondary institutions.

3.4 A healthy population

3.4.1 The Province will seek to increase the number of health professionals practicing in Northern Ontario by:

  1. continuing to recruit and retain qualified health professionals
  2. promoting health care as a career choice for more northerners, including Francophone and Aboriginal residents of Northern Ontario
  3. increasing rural and remote clinical education opportunities for medical students
  4. supporting education, recruitment and retention, mentorship and clinical placements for all health care students
  5. continuing to reduce barriers and support training and assessment programs for qualified, internationally educated health care professionals
  6. using technology to share expertise and mentorship between Northern Ontario hospitals, and practitioners and specialists from outside of the region.

3.4.2 The Province will seek to improve access to health care services for Northern Ontario residents by:

  1. supporting and strengthening health care planning and delivery approaches in Northern Ontario
  2. providing programs that facilitate aging at home to allow seniors to live healthy, independent lives in the comfort and dignity of their own homes
  3. continuing the development and implementation of tools to enhance patient care, including diagnostic imaging technology, remote patient evaluation systems, and handheld applications for recording clinical information
  4. expanding scopes of practice of non-physician health professionals such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants
  5. strengthening existing programs and developing new programs to promote health and prevent the occurrences of injuries, illness, chronic conditions and their resulting disabilities in a manner that is relevant to Northern Ontario needs
  6. supporting the need for French services in French-language designated communities.

3.4.3 Municipalities are encouraged to support and promote healthy living by providing for communities with a diverse mix of land uses, a range and mix of employment and housing types, high-quality public open spaces, and easy access to local stores and services.